For our meeting in March, we're doing something a bit different: We'll be reading Chesterton's first and most successful and critically-acclaimed play, Magic: A Fantastic Comedy in Three Acts.
The book is available in paperback or Kindle format.
You can also read it online or download various formats.
Finally, we've made a PDF version to download.
Chesterton is sadly under-appreciated and neglected as a playwright. While his output in this genre was light compared to the volume of his work in other forms, what he did produce was of great quality and very well received by audiences and critics in his time.
Here's just a sampling of the comments by contemporary critics from the London production of Magic:
"It is a pleasure to record that 'Magic' amused us all exceedingly, was a great success, and must be seen by everybody." -- William Archer (Scottish Playwright and Critic), signed review in The Star, 8 November 1913.
"If 'Magic' be a bad play - its author says it is - then I pray the gods to send us more of them, and to reserve those good ones with which we have lately been inundated, for their own special delectation.... A brilliantly witty play, brilliantly acted, and excellently produced. I shall go again." -- Unsigned review in The Clarion, 12 November 1913.
"'Magic' is to be set down as a remarkably clever piece of work. But... one is not at all sure that it should be classed as a play. It might be more fitly described as a series of 'action essays' on religion, and everything else under the sun, written in G.K.C.'s inimitable manner. No one, not even Mr. Bernard Shaw, ever sees things quite as he does. G.K.C is like Peter Pan. He has never grown up. He has the heart of a child. His head may seem to be in the clouds, he often touches the very stars themselves, in his philosophy he appears at times to have knowledge of such things in heaven and earth as are his from even those who profess knowledge of such matters. Yet he is never for one moment outwardly serious. And he compels us to laugh even when we feel annoyed. [...] 'Magic' is very much like a dream which has just missed being a nightmare. Impossible things happen, the characters seem real and yet talk as no one but Mr. Chesterton himself ever talks, and at intervals one laughs consumedly not at, but with, the genial, unconventional, and wholly elusive author." -- A review signed "Habitué," in Lady's Pictorial, 15 November 1913.
"I followed the comedy of 'Magic' from the first line to the last with interest and appreciation, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I think of all modern plays I like it the best." -- from a letter from George Moore (the subject of a chapter in Chesterton's "Heretics") to Forster Bovill, 24 November 1913.
"Mr. Chesterton is in the English tradition of Shakespeare and Fielding and Dickens in which you must grip your character so masterfully that you can play with it in the most extravagant fashion.... The Duke in Magic is much better than Micawber or Mrs. Wilfer, neither of whom can bear the footlights because, like piping bullfinches, they have only one tune whilst the Duke sets everything in his universe to his ridiculous music. That is the Shakespearian touch. Is it grateful to ask more?" -- George Bernard Shaw, "The Case Against Chesterton," in The New Statesman, 13 May 1916.
We'll see whether our own reviews match up with these when we discuss this fascinating play in March!
We aim to provide fellowship and fun in the Philadelphia area as we gather and honor the personal and literary legacy of G.K. Chesterton.
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